Advice From Charlie

Kurt Miegel reflects on the reality of forming and maintaining relationships in the modern world.

“We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost…”

To whom might you attribute this quote?

A modern world leader? A tech giant like a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? Even a well-meaning celebrity? No.

This quote is taken from the 1940 film The Great Dictator starring silent movie legend Charlie Chaplin. Once you get over the fact that he actually does have a voice, you begin to read into what he is saying and how much it still rings true today.

We live faster lives, full of more technology with access to endless knowledge at our fingertips. But when was the last time you could honestly say you reached out and talked to a stranger? A total stranger. Not someone who is in the same course as you or someone who shares some interests with you. Just someone who might be waiting for the bus or sitting next to you at an event.

This is the problem with this technologically focussed world. Although we are so connected, we lose touch with so many people. I have hundreds of contacts in my phone and on Facebook, but what good are they if I can’t speak to those people face-to-face? Because I know I can call or message them at any time, I end up not talking to them at all. Not only that, but we don’t make meaningful connections with people like we used to. I could only tell you the birthdays and some key facts about a few of my friends. My grandfather is on the positive side of 80, can list off birthdays, key personality traits and so much more about everyone he’s met. See what I’m getting at?

We have so much wonderful technology in our lives that allows us to live in ease and to do great things. It would be easy to claim that because of this we are smarter than we have ever been but if we lose the ability to develop close relationships with people around us, are we really smarter than the generations which have come before us?

The world faces an uncertain and potentially dangerous future. If there ever was a time to form more lasting and meaningful connections, it is probably now. As Chaplin points out, it is the kindness and gentleness of humanity that we need, not the bigger, better and faster machinery in our pockets and all around us. Those around you need to be the priority, not the gadgets and gizmos that we so often put first.

Words by Kurt Miegel

Images by Charlotte Rollinson

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